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“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)

From 1930 to 1933 John and Edith Hayward of Winnipeg, MB provided hospitality, discipled and trained Bakht Singh who lived with them as a newly converted international student. They treated him “as part of their family, and their home became a place of training for him.” Singh had been a Sikh from the Punjabi region of northern India. Who would have thought that their guest would one day be “the greatest evangelist and church-planter in India in the twentieth century,” starting an indigenous church planting movement that has resulted in thousands of churches, some say even 10,000!

Fast-forward to 2018. I sit in a parked sedan on a dark winter night in Montreal, QC engine still running to keep the heat flowing. The warmth from the car however, cannot compete with the burning in my heart as a just-graduated Indian foreign student, also from Singh’s Sikh-saturated Punjabi region, shows me pictures of hundreds of passionate Christ-worshippers at the church his father pastors, badly in need of a bigger place of worship. With loud cries and tears, we lock hands in passionate prayer.

This young man, Michael, has been taking on extra web design and computer programming projects to help finance his home church’s construction of a massive 2,500-seater chapel.  Only two months prior, Michael had missed the Thanksgiving meal he was invited to in my home because he desperately needed to complete one of his projects. My wife and I drove to his house after dinner that Thanksgiving night to still deliver his missed meal but later, as I heard the details of this Kingdom builder’s story and how we could enhance his leadership capacity and partner with him on mission to one of the parts of the globe that is least-reached with the Gospel I wondered: what if we never went beyond friendship and hospitality?

What if this is another Punjabi international student in the order of Bakht Singh and all we did was feed him dinner and bid him, “keep warm” with no intentionality about deeper discipling, intentional leadership training and partnering with him as a co-missionary to India for the sake of the mission of God?

As we speak of EVERY INTERNATIONAL and seeing a day when every International Student in North America has an opportunity to encounter the Gospel and then they become a catalyst for an evangelical church for every people, Christ-leaders for every church and Kingdom impact in every sphere of society, what really is the INVITATION here?

May I suggest it’s the same as JESUS’ invitation in Matthew 4:19: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”


  1. “COME” | an invitation to be a FRIEND

FIRST THINGS FIRST. That’s the invitation, COME! Let’s be friends. Let’s fellowship. Let’s hang out. How heartwarming! In fact, elsewhere in Scripture this invitation of Jesus is expounded further:  He appointed twelve that they might be with him …” (Matthew 4:19)


  1. “FOLLOW ME” | an invitation to be a FOLLOWER

Yes, “First things first,” but FIRST THING ISN’T EVERYTHING. Indeed, the mission of God to the nations in our midst may begin with a cup of cold water or a hot meal but if that is where it ends, we’ve missed the point. The 1.8 million international students/scholars in North America being among the brightest and best from their countries are already set to lead their nations—it’s just a matter of when and how. This demands a response from the people of God beyond hospitality. It requires doing the harder work of followership, teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us. This is what church folk call “discipleship.” Jesus’ invitation, our invitation to international students, is first, FRIENDSHIP. Next, FOLLOWERSHIP.


  1. “AND I WILL SEND YOU TO FISH FOR PEOPLE” | an invitation to be a FISHER

Finally, “first things” doesn’t mean final thing. Jesus endpoint wasn’t friendship or even followership but FISHING. “Come, follow me,” yes, so then what? “I will send you to fish for people.” Remember how “he appointed twelve that they might be with him”? Do you know what the rest of that verse says? “and that he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14).

Jesus’ invitation to us, and ours to international students, requires doing the hardest yet most strategic work of intentional missional leadership development of these students to not just be disciples of Jesus but disciple-makers for Jesus a.k.a. leaders! Leadership is about serving people, influencing others for the Kingdom of God while never ceasing to keep following him as his disciples ourselves—that is Jesus’ endgame, and that must be ours as well!

Although if followership is done the way Jesus did it we wouldn’t have to make a distinction between discipleship and leadership, be that as it may, here is the distinction: One Pastor Mac Lake who I learnt this from, says,
“Fundamentally, the process is the same, but the focus is different.”


    • I learn to live like Jesus


  • Primarily about character
  • About leading self


  • About cultivating intimacy with  God



  • I learn to lead like Jesus


    • Primarily about competencies
    • About leading others


  • About cultivating influence with people. 



The tension between discipleship and leadership is real, but (with the crucible of friendship and hospitality assumed),

“Discipleship and Christian leadership development are inextricably linked and together make a slow and deep work. Those who promise impressive growth through simple and easy steps are simply selling an illusion… Apprenticing people toward Jesus’ way eventually establishes what it means for them to influence others toward God’s purposes.” (Reese & Loane, Deep Mentoring)



Easy ministry or strategic ministry? The choice is ours! You see, the same God who has made international student ministry “stunningly simple” has simultaneously made it “strategically smart.” Billy Graham once pointed out: “You might be the person that God uses to bring the next world leader to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” There is a sad divorce of friendship/hospitality from discipleship, leadership development from discipleship and leadership from mission.

International student ministry isn’t just something we do TO students in the diaspora (scattered people; away from home). Professor Enoch Wan laid it out well for us, that diaspora missions is tri-directional: to students, through students and by and beyond students.” However, most international student ministries have generally not only been disproportionately bent to/towards students but even then, also primarily limited to hospitality and friendship. I am of the candid opinion that ministry to international students that does not go beyond easy hospitality to the strategic empowering of these brightest and best as missional leaders falls short of missio Dei.

This should be your end game: to empower international students to impact the world through Jesus Christ. How do you empower = Think of the acronym H.E.L.P.S. Hospitality and friendship; Edification and Evangelism; Leadership development; Partnering & Sending.

How do they then impact the world, bringing God’s shalom = Think of H.E.A.L.  Hope; Edification and Evangelism; Attitudinal change (paradigm shifts); Leadership to all SEVEN SPHERES of influence.



How do you select who to develop as a leader. First do this prayerfully like Jesus who spend all night praying before in the morning choosing the twelve to train (Luke 6:13).

Secondly follow Paul’s admonition to Timothy to choose faithful people (2 Timothy 2:2). Again, for ease of remembrance and to throw more light on what this means let’s use FAITH as an acronym. Look out for:

  • Faithfulness (trustworthiness, integrity)
  • Availability
  • Initiative (as in proactive) and Influence (not necessarily in a big way but proven ability to influence others)
  • Teachability (humility), and
  • Hunger (passionate to learn and to change the world)



After you’ve selected who to invest in, now what do you do? Whatever best practices and programme/training material/syllabus you decide to adopt, the following nine principal pillars, each one taken from the lips or the life of the greatest leader that ever lived—Jesus Christ of Nazareth—must be present in order to intentionally and properly develop godly, effectual global emerging leaders.


  1. PROCESS—“Come follow me and I will make you”

Leaders are made daily; not in a day. They are crockpot-cooked not zapped by microwaves.


  1. PROXIMATE—“He appointed twelve that they might be with him”

Relationship, relationship, relationship. Life on life in real time is the best. Actions do speak louder than words and modeling is the most powerful way to train leaders. Not the words we teach; it’s how we lead our lives that will impact them the most. We need to keep them close enough. Be their curriculum.


  1. PRACTICE—“He sent them two by two”

Don’t just hang out or do the ‘book work’ let there be practical action by giving them positions and projects. Combining the process of being proximate and practical will look like this: Watch me do it; I teach you to do it; I do it with you; I watch you do it; You go do it; You go teach someone else like I taught you


  1. PARADIGM-SHIFTING—“You have heard it said…but I tell you.”

Ideas have consequences. Deal with beliefs, attitudes, mindsets, assumptions, values… a transformation by the renewing of the mind at the deepest level towards a truly biblical worldview.


  1. PURPOSE-DRIVEN—“As the father has sent me, even so am I sending you”

International student leaders in training ought to be taught their five-fold purposes of worship, fellowship, discipleship, service and mission. Regarding the last two, it is important to help them discover their specific God-given purpose gleaning it from their S-H-A-P-E: Spiritual gifts, Heartfelt passions, Abilities (talents), Personality and Experiences.


  1. PRINCIPLE-CENTRED—“Verily, verily I say unto you”

Every game has rules; so does the game of life. So does leadership. Please don’t just teach practices, especially things that are only true at certain times and in certain contexts but timeless, universal truths rooted in the Word of God. I would ask them to make a practice of finding a scriptural basis for anything that they come across that is supposedly “this is how things are done.”


  1. CHARACTER-BASED—“You are the salt of the earth”

Like it is said, charisma without character is a disaster waiting to happen. Invariably it does. O how the church and the world need leaders worth their salt!

Let us challenge and teach students to be like Christ in Character. To be H.I.S. people: Leaders of Humility (nothing to lose), Integrity (nothing to hide), Simplicity (nothing to prove).


  1. HOLISTIC—“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”

Our training is not holistic unless it touches the physical (including financial), spiritual, social, mental and emotional dimension of life and leadership. All three H’s—Head (knowledge), Heart (character, attitudes), Hands (skills)—must be engaged in our leadership development.

And finally…


  1. SPIRIT-EMPOWERED—“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”

It is sad to see many a leader trying to solve the world’s problems without spiritual power! You can’t! After a thorough three-and-a-half year process of intentional training of the Twelve that was most certainly proximate (24/7), full of practical roles and projects, one that had been paradigm-shifting, purpose-driven, principle-centered, character-based and holistic, Jesus still basically says to them, There’s one more thing, guys, wait. Wait in Jerusalem until you have received power from God.

No one ever went to better Bible school than the disciples. They were not just studying the Word, they lived with the Word Himself; the Word made flesh! Yet He told them not to go about preaching, teaching, leading, healing, whatever, until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit from on high!


While a lot has been achieved in world mission over the last 2,000 years, there are still over 7,000 unreached people groups. This constitutes 41.5% of total people groups in the world and represents 3.14 billion souls! Is it a mere accident or God’s orchestration that the majority of the unreached people groups are nestled in the top two sending countries of their brightest and best to North America: China and India? Nearly 82% of China’s people groups and 89.6% of India’s are unreached. Going beyond friendship/hospitality to missional leadership development (marketplace shapers and church planters alike) could be the game-changer for global missions.

It is projected that by 2050, 79% of missionaries will be from the global South, where the majority of internationals come from. Will the North American church go beyond friendship and hospitality to significantly contribute to the training of this new cadre of mission leaders?   What a pity if we fail to utilize this moment!



“Leadership development in Jesus’ name is a slow and deep work…paying attention to the formation of others is a lifelong work, which holds in tension our growing with our serving—our followership and our leadership. The Spirit’s faithful shaping work in our lives seems to be concerned with both ends of the tension.” (Reese & Loane, Deep Mentoring)

The harvesters are within the harvest. It is time for a paradigm shift from mission ‘to’ international students to mission ‘through’ them and ‘by and beyond’ them. In the spirit of hard, slow and deep work, we must cultivate deep mentoring relationships and find programmes and projects, processes and tools to make this leadership formation happen — beyond friendship and even followership.

Anyone who truly understands the enormity of the task at hand of discipling the nations should see the genius of God in his gift of foreign students/scholars in our midst to conquer this mountain — beyond hospitality and friendship.

Developing Christ-like Leaders


Yaw believes ministry to international students must go beyond easy hospitality to strategic empowering. Without empowering future missional leaders, we risk falling short of Missio Dei (God’s mission). Learn how you can build on friendship to help students grow as disciples and leaders.

Yaw believes ministry to international students must go beyond easy hospitality to strategic empowering. Without empowering future missional leaders, we risk falling short of Missio Dei (God’s mission). Learn how you can build on friendship to help students grow as disciples and leaders.